3 Surprises from PAX East

With my time at PAX East 2013, there were a couple of surprises. Sure, I expected to love Splinter Cell: Blacklist — which I did — and the Neverwinter F2P MMORPG is everything I could possibly hope for; that said, there were some games I had never heard about that now have my complete and utter attention.

SmashMuck Champions will be my next MOBA addiction

I'm a huge fan of League of Legends. It's one of those games that, while I might take a break here and there from it, I'll never stop playing. That said, 45-minute matches can take a lot out of you. That's probably why I had so much fun with the couple of matches I played with SmashMuck Champions.

This fast-paced MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) isn't your typical three-lane, destroy the enemy's Nexus game. It comes with three 5v5 game types: Destroyer, which has you trying to destroy the other team's mech while fueling your own; Conquest, which has you control capture points; and Siege, which most plays like your standard League of Legends match. The game type I played at PAX East was Plunder Ball, a sport-like Capture the Flag for either 3v3 or 5v5, where the first team to three points wins.

cliffside battleground

The map was Cliffside Battleground, and the teams were 3v3. Cliffside Battleground is mountainous and grassy on the red side (left side) of the map, while on the blue side it's all metal and tech-y. There's multiple paths to each base with power-ups in between, but you need to be careful not to fall off the map. The matches play quick, but there's a surprising amount of strategy and depth to it, especially with the champions you have to choose from.

I played two matches – one as Brutus and one as Zert. Brutus is categorized as Melee Defense. He can take a beating and gets up close and personal with his huge sword to slow and weaken enemies. With an ability that increases his attack speed, he can absolutely crush weaker opponents if he gets near them. Zert, on the other hand, is a Ranged Offense champion. With ranged attacks, high agility and a speed buff, he made for a great ball carrier. While you control the champion, your role is that of coach. You assign weapons and gear to your champions, make alliances and teams with logos, and level up.

smashmuck champions

Your coach level, which caps at 40, determines what items you can use. Weapons boost a primary stat or skill, and each weapon has its own level and experience. By completing workouts, you can also boost your stats.

Outside of the matches being fast and furious – and a lot of fun, to boot – the development team at KizStudios really listens to their community. I know a lot of developers say this, but they actually do. At PAX East, they had a panel where their fans just shout out ideas for a champion, and using all of these ideas, they create a playable champion that will be in the game. The fans are truly affected the development of the game.

With a great art style, fun combat, team strategy, and persistent customization and progression, Smashmuck Champions has all the makings of a successful MOBA.

WildStar is a fantasy 'Firefly' MMORPG that is exciting beyond all belief

Just what the hell exactly is WildStar? I passed by the booth 20 times and finally decided to stop there the last day. WildStar is a fantasy/sci-fi MMORPG developed by Carbine Studios and published by NCSoft. Aside from some awesome twists on classes and a really cool comic book-ish art style, WildStar has some feature that MMO players will love.

There's housing, for one. Yes, you read that right – housing. If you're into crafting, simply plop a place to craft right in your house. It's probably the best housing system since Ultima Online or Star Wars Galaxies. There's an original story to accompany the game that players should also fall in love with. There's a mix of PvP and PvE combat, so it offers something for everyone.

Combat is reactive and based on player skill. You'll actively dodge and avoid attacks while pulling off your own. There's also a momentum feature to the combat, where if you attack and defend optimally, you'll get bonuses and should continue attacking.

PvP adds Warplots for your guild, where you can attack and defend other guild's Warplots. A Warplot is a base that you outfit with defense and weaponry. There will be rewards and consequences for defending or losing your Warplot, but I wasn't told what those are yet.

Before I wrap this up, I have to mention the stealth mechanic. The Spellslinger class can put himself in another dimension where only other Spellslingers can see him – including enemy Spellslingers. This is a dimension you can attack from, but if an opposing Spellslinger attacks you, he can knock you out of the dimension. #mindblown

Holy customization, Batman!: Guncraft and Edge of Space


The Reverb booth was chock-full of customization. First up was Guncraft, and it's exactly what it sounds like – a mix of a first-person shooter with Minecraft's building mechanics. If you're a fan of both, then you're surely going to enjoy this game. Developed by Exato Games Studios, it has pretty much the exact same art style – blocks, basically – as Minecraft. The FPS gameplay is solid, but what makes this game stand out is the crafting. You have construct your own weapons and maps via an editor. With the weapons, specifically, you can make them look how you want and then assign attributes to them, making them powerful or accurate.

The maps are a whole different beast. I played in one level that was very Tron-like in appearance, with huge buildings surrounding me. What's great is that if you want to make some makeshift cover, simply build it yourself. You can even plan out construct layouts before the match, and during the match build them with a single click.

edge of space

Another game that's over the top with customization is Edge of Space. Ever dream of doing everything in a game? Edge of Space will allow you to do that. A combination of Terraria, Metroid and Minecraft, Edge of Space is a 2D survival, exploration, terraforming, crafting and building game. You explore an open-world sandbox that you can create, build, and shape in whatever manner you see fit.

There is very much a theme of man vs. nature in Edge of Space. The environment is aware of everything you do and will work against you. For instance, if you build in an area, the result might kill off basic life in the area. That said, more advanced species might try to destroy what you build. And it won't stop there; if they're advanced enough, they'll search for where you came from. It's that intense.

The game supports modding, so players will fall in love with it, there's tons to craft, and you fight some truly amazing monsters. A flying shark with a laser on its head. A FLYING SHARK WITH A LASER ON ITS HEAD!

You can follow Senior Editor Lance Liebl on Twitter @Lance_GZ. He likes talking sports, video games, movies, and the stupidity of celebrities. Email at LLiebl@GameZone.com